Here is our ultimate guide to season 4 of The Walking Dead — what happened last season, what to look forward to this season and much much more…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
The Walking Dead will return for season 4 this Sunday night with new showrunner Scott Gimple leading the charge as our group of survivors grows much larger with citizens from Woodbury now inhabiting the prison alongside series regulars like Rick, Herschel, Glenn, Maggie and Daryl.
Gimple has been with The Walking Dead since season 2 as a writer, and following the exit of Glen Mazzara and Frank Darabont over the last two years, he will become the third showrunner in four seasons. Good old ‘creative differences’ led to the exit of both Mazzara and Darabont, and one begins to wonder if the showrunner on The Walking Dead is merely a figurehead to creator, writer and executive producer Robert Kirkman, who is really the one running the show.
Regardless, Gimple takes over with a fresh slate on the show after last season ended with Rick and the gang beating back the invasion from The Governor and his group of henchman, while also welcoming in a new horde of survivors looking to make a home at the prison. In today’s preview we will look behind at what happened in season 3 while also looking ahead at season 4. We will compile some comments from the cast and crew from various interviews, post some new pictures from the season, and give some overall opinion on what we have to look forward to with this newest slate of episodes from The Walking Dead.
What Happened in Season 3
I’m assuming if you’re reading this preview you’ve already watched season 3 of The Walking Dead so I’ll keep the recap brief while hitting on some of the major story points that happened during the finale. We’ll go character by character to start….
Rick Grimes — For a big part of the season, Rick dealt with the fall out from the loss of his wife Lori, who died giving birth to their daughter Judith. Rick struggled with his grief, actually seeing his dead wife pop up all over the prison. Eventually, Rick got it together and helped lead his survivors against the town of Woodbury led by the psychotic Governor. At season’s end, Rick welcomed in a huge bunch of Woodbury survivors to join his group at the prison.
Lori Grimes — Died during season 3 while giving birth
Andrea — Died during season 3. Her loyalties were tested while living (and sleeping) with The Governor in Woodbury. Eventually she tried to choose her old group of survivors including her new friend Michonne, but The Governor found out about her treachery and eventually locked her in a room with his former assistant Milton, who he stabs and waits for him to die and turn into a zombie to kill Andrea. She’s able to battle free and kill him, but not before she’s already bitten. She gets Rick’s gun and kills herself before she can become the undead
Daryl Dixon — Responsible for general bad-assery throughout the season. Reunited with his brother Merle, who is eventually turned into a zombie during an assassination attempt on The Governor. Daryl has to put his brother down once and for all. He also maintains his role as second in command, while doing cool things like shooting a crossbow and saying awesome stuff like ‘you’re going to have a much bigger problem than a gunshot wound’.
Michonne — The stranger that shows up at the prison one day, and eventually befriends Carl after helping him snatch a picture of his mom and dad from a local diner. She kills The Governor’s zombie daughter, and eventually puts a piece of glass through his eye (helping send him completely over the edge into lunacy). She’s got a cool sword, too.
Glenn and Maggie — They get kidnapped and taken to The Governor before Rick and the gang help them escape. The pair are tormented while under The Governor’s thumb, and back at the prison Glenn feels remorse that he couldn’t save Maggie when she was stripped of her clothes and threatened with rape if she didn’t talk. He eventually comes around at the end of the season and the pair reunite.
Hershel — Lost a leg during the season, helps lead the prison while Rick is incapacitated.
Carol — Struggling to remember what she did outside of care for Rick’s new baby and flirt weirdly with Daryl during the season.
Beth — Same thing for Beth. She didn’t do much although at some point she sort of flirted with Carl, which was kind of creepy
Carl — Helped to deliver his baby sister and then killed his mother knowing she was about to die and turn into a zombie. Eventually killed a kid from Woodbury when it looked like he was putting down his weapon in surrender. Carl gives zero fucks about killing someone.
The Governor — Ultimate bad guy. Tortures people like he was in George Bush’s presidency (had to do it), torments Andrea, Michonne, and anyone else that stands in his way. Leads his army from Woodbury to take over the prison, but fails and on his way back he decides to execute everyone with him except for two of his henchmen. He remains at large at the end of season 3.
Tyreese — Gets to the prison, leaves the prison, joins the community at Woodbury, realizes The Governor is batshit crazy, goes back to the prison.
We also lost T-Dog and the prisoners who joined the survivors ever so briefly. By season’s end, Rick and his survivors were welcoming in a new group from Woodbury and getting the prison back to some version of normalcy after The Governor’s attack was thwarted. And that’s where we pick up for season 4
So in this section we will compile a list of the best quotes and comments from the actors and producers involved in the show to give a sense of what to look forward to in the upcoming season of The Walking Dead. As far as the storyline goes, we know that the group is still in the prison adjusting to life after The Governor. From the panel at San Dieg Comic Con we know that The Governor will rear his ugly head again this season, we just don’t know in what capacity or how it will happen.
One of the biggest changes under Gimple’s reign as showrunner will be the character development. He said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that giving the characters more of a chance to be fleshed out and given stories will be huge to the overall storytelling in season 4.
“One thing that is quantifiably different is every single character gets a story,” Gimple said. “When I approached the season, I started with that. What is each character going through? Some of those stories are bigger than others but they all crash into each other. Last year it was something I wanted to do and everybody wanted to do it [but] it was hard with the story we were telling. This season, knowing the story we were telling, I got to be super-disciplined about this and figure out a way everybody gets their story — because they’re great characters and great actors.”
Show creator Robert Kirkman said much of the same in an interview with Vulture, where he says one of his biggest regrets was not giving past characters like T-Dog more story before they were killed.
“Specifically when it comes to season four, I would say there is a lot more character depth,” Kirkman said. “In season three, for example, maybe we didn’t do enough with Beth. We lost T-Dog, and maybe we never did enough with him. This time, we are trying to make sure that every character on this show is on the show for a reason.”
Actor Andrew Grimes, who portrays Rick Grimes, says a big part of this season comes down to redemption — is it possible to find that in a world full of the undead where you are asked to do unspeakable things and then move on like nothing ever happened.
“It can be summed up as one question: Can we ever return from the things we’ve done, from the things that we’ve perpetrated?” Lincoln said. “From the brutality of this world? Can we love again? Can we live again? That encapsulates certainly Rick’s arc and probably many other character arcs this season.
It looks like Carl will get an increased role in season 4 as well after killing someone at the end of last season. For a young kid who has literally grown up in the zombie apocalypse, he’s adjusting to this new world a little too well all things considered.
“The show picks up a few months after last season’s finale. I think the problem, as you see, is that Carl is well-adjusted,” Kirkman told Vulture. “That’s something that’s going to be a very big part of the season, the fact that Carl is handling that well when he shouldn’t have been able to handle it well. It’s really inspired Rick to step back from the leadership role and focus on raising his son. I wouldn’t be surprised it if caught back up with Carl, though. It’s not something we’re sweeping under the rug.”
As for Michonne, it seems our mysterious katana wielding newcomer will continue to slash up zombies, but she’s also got another mission on her mind. Remember how The Governor was left alive last season? Yeah, Michonne doesn’t like that too much
“Sometimes her biggest challenge is herself, the idea of becoming a real part of this group,” actress Danai Gurira said. “It’s the whole connection to understanding what truly becoming a community is about. She’s very keen to protect and serve and she doesn’t like untied ends — and the Governor is an untied end.
Norman Reedus is also taking on a different role as leader this season when Daryl takes over a bit for Rick, who is stepping back from his Ricktatorship to be a father to Carl and apparently a damn good gardener alongside Hershel.
“Daryl is doing so much. He’s a reluctant leader and has his eye on Rick and he’s like, “When you’re ready, Rick.” He’s having the group leave Rick alone and letting him figure it out himself,” Reedus told The Hollywood Reporter. “Rick has become the brother Merle (Michael Rooker) wasn’t. Daryl is keeping people alive and doing what needs to be done. But he’s not like, “Hey, let’s have a powwow, let me uplift your spirits.” He’s not that guy. He’s such a different character than when we first started — all of us are. Everything used to come out of the side of his face; he was like, “Don’t look at me.” There was a shame of who he was going to become if [these changes] did not happen — he would have been Merle and grown up embarrassed of who he was. This season, he doesn’t talk out of the side of his face; he talks directly at you. He talks less and he means what he says.”
Throw The Comic Books Away
For those curious, The Walking Dead is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary this year and just did a major release party for issue No. 115 for the newest story arc called ‘All Out War’. I believe The Walking Dead has been the best written comic for the past decade, and I’ve voted it as the top ongoing series a couple of times in the past few years and will probably do so again. The way that Robert Kirkman has found new ways to stretch this series out, creating new characters as well as putting his survivors in a different type of peril with each issue is an amazing feat. Now we all know comic books aren’t TV, the same way TV isn’t comic books.
SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE COMICS AND DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS
So when The Walking Dead started a few seasons ago, variations had to be made. Right away, Shane surviving more than a couple of episodes was a huge difference from the book where he’s killed by Carl almost immediately after his father reunites with his family. Daryl was never in the comic book. Hershel has a bunch more kids, and is eventually killed by The Governor (although that could still hypothetically happen). The Governor dies. In the comic it’s Dale who loses a leg and while he does die, it’s not until much later in the series. Andrea, is still alive and kicking and she’s actually starting to fall in love with Rick, as they have moved in together and are now in a relationship. In other words, the TV show is way different.
It sounds like the differences will become even greater this season. Despite fantastic source material, Kirkman seems determined to make The Walking Dead on TV a completely different animal than the one he created in the comic books. According to Gimple, there are still going to be elements of the comic book in the series, but it won’t be very recognizable outside of some new characters being introduced with familiar names.
“You know that the show and the comic book are in very different places, so in some ways we can’t do exactly what was in the comic book in many ways,” Gimple said to EW.com. “But the way I look upon it is that it’s sort of like a remix of the comic books. So absolutely, we’re going to see all sorts of things from the comic book. Some of the things will be very direct as we move forward. A lot of things will just be kind of the same content but in different contexts — different characters doing some of the things we saw in the comic books, situations from the comic book, but sort of in different locations, involving different people. I think comic fans will be able to pick out like, “Oh damn, they did that in a whole different way, but it is that moment. It’s undoubtedly that moment.”
Let’s not forget at the heart of this character study of how humanity survives during the apocalypse, that the reason our survivors are running, fleeing and scratching to hold onto any kind of life is because the world has been overrun by zombies. There have been more than a few complaints by fans that for a zombie show, The Walking Dead doesn’t feature nearly enough zombies.
Gimple promises that there were be plenty of occasions of the undead rising up to reclaim their throne as the new rulers of this world. Don’t let some sense of false security fool you into thinking the prison is safe from the zombies who want in.
“I don’t want to sell that the population density of walkers in the world is, like, insane — like you can’t walk through the forest without experiencing tons and tons and tons of zombies. The flip side is, we will see some herding. We will see some very arresting examples of how zombies own the world now,” Gimple said.
The Walking Dead remains an absolute juggernaut for AMC in terms of ratings week to week. The show out draws network offerings, which is virtually unheard of in terms of overall viewership numbers. That said, there is concern about a third showrunner in four seasons. The pressure is on Gimple to deliver in the same manner as Darabont and Mazzara did at different points during their runs. Certainly neither were perfect, but The Walking Dead got to these huge numbers of viewers for a reason and it had to have something to do with the story and leadership of Mazzara and Darabont.
Fleshing out the characters as teased during the preview is a great thing to hear because there’s so much unknown about many of the leads who appear in every episode, but we barely know anything about them. This is one difference from the comic book that can be explored because we have an hour each week with them and not just 32 illustrated pages to tell the story. I’ve always envisioned a few ‘Lost’ type flashbacks to give some depth to the characters, so we could start to understand the decisions that they make or why they are showing an attachment to certain things in this world.
The show veering off from the comic book means I really don’t know which direction they are headed this season and that’s good and bad. The comic book is amazing, and each story arc is filled with new villains that are testing our survivors at every turn, but Kirkman and his group believe they have a better idea for the TV show, so be it. I just hope they lead The Walking Dead in the right direction because as good as Kirkman is, it’s hard to re-imagine your own work and create a superior product at the same time.
I know the comic book is one of the best of all time — can he do the same for the TV show?
The Walking Dead returns on Sunday night at 9pm on AMC. Our recaps for the show will begin on Sunday night as well from new staff writer Scott Harris, who picks up with episode one for season 4.